“The Money Was Good and the Money Was Easy.” Inmates recall life and experiments at Holmesburg Prison
The year was 1964, the location was Holmesburg Prison in Philadelphia, and inmate Al Zabala had just become a test subject for the U.S. Army in one of its tests of chemical agents. Serving a one-year sentence for burglary, the 27-year-old Zabala had originally expressed fear at being part of an experiment, but he gradually overcame his misgivings-for a fee. His personal story is typical of the thousands of American prisoners who decided to sell themselves as experimental subjects during the postwar expansion of medical research. This chapter offers an opportunity for those who contributed their bodies to science, but never achieved fame or fortune, to tell their side of the story: To explain why they chose to be, and what it was like to be, a Holmesburg guinea pig.